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Drinking the Sea at Gaza

Sarah Maguire

The rusted municipal standpipe

scalds in the noonday sun.


Wrenched open, it gasps,

then stops,


then coughs up

a wretched stuttered stream,


a warm brown bile,

metallic and briny,


that even the donkeys

won’t drink from choice.


The rusted municipal standpipe

stands in a puddle of slime,


a playground for cockroaches

as they freefall through drains,


then slip down the long-busted sewer

oozing its cloacal juice.


The foul stream seeps

down blundering alleyways,


past kicked-in doors,

past that tentative shop stocked


with yellowing boxes,

past sheetiron and snowcem,


past barbedwire and razorwire,

past children, barefooted,


the enamel already stripped

from their teeth,


lugging scratched plastic jerricans

bigger than they are


which they fill to the brim

with what-passes-for water


in Beach Camp, in Gaza,

where people are drinking


the sea.

Deep underground


the aquifer is emptied of rain.

The thick beds of sandstone


(open-pored, permeable, cool)

interleaved with layers


of silty clay and clayey silt,

are being sucked dry.


The watertable plummets.

The sea trickles in,


to be seasoned with chlorine

then plumbed along pipelines


to this rusting municipal standpipe

scalding in the noonday sun.

From Magma no. 27, Autumn 2003